Girls’ interest in science stems from parents and teachers

Parents and teachers must be better informed if they are to encourage girls to pursue science studies and careers, new research suggests.

Girls’ interest in science stems from parents and teachers

The recommendation emerges from two new studies pointing to the strong influence of parents and teachers on teenage girls’ subject and career choices.

Accenture Ireland and the I Wish group, which runs events to attract girls to science, said their surveys highlight the issue as a key way of improving chances of female students getting and staying interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects.

In a survey of 600 students, parents and teachers, 65% of girls said their parents are most likely to influence subject choices at school, and half said their parents influence their career aspirations.

However, just 24% of parents felt ‘very informed’ about the variety of STEM career opportunities, and just over half had no experience of modern STEM careers to pass on to their children.

The report did not give a breakdown of how many of the respondents were students, parents or teachers.

Over half of parents also acknowledge having made subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys when it comes to STEM subjects.

More than half of teachers had seen girls drop STEM subjects in school because of pressure from parents, according to the survey carried out for Accenture.

The survey got responses from almost 2,400 girls aged 14 to 17, whose teachers also took part.

While 94% of the students were hugely influenced by how subjects are taught, just one-third of teachers said they did not know enough about STEM and related courses or careers.

While one in five students who had been to less than three STEM events were doing at least two STEM subjects for Leaving Certificate, the corresponding figure for those who attended at least three such events was 30%.

Over 80% of girls indicated they wanted a career where they can help others, but they could not clearly see how STEM would facilitate that.

I Wish co-founder Ruth Buckley said teachers need to be supported so they can communicate and inform girls on the value and opportunities of STEM subjects, courses and careers.

Accenture Ireland client director Paula Neary said we need to change the way we talk about STEM careers, as its report indicates that descriptive job titles such as ‘sports equipment inventor’ are more appealing to young girls than traditional jobs such as ‘engineer’.

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